Tyler Morton, Thiago Alcantara and Mohamed Salah impressed as Liverpool eked out a hard-fought 2-0 win over FC Porto on Wednesday.
Jurgen Klopp made big changes to the starting lineup, resting several key players, which had an initial effect on the team’s performance. That is because FC Porto were the better of the two sides in the opening quarter of the game. And it was only due to their profligacies in the final third that the score remained 0-0 by the time Liverpool finally found their feet.
The Reds ended the first half strongly, enabled by a couple of major errors by Diogo Costa, with Mohamed Salah only managing a couple of tame efforts in reply. Liverpool started the second period just as they had ended the first, and just seven minutes in, they were ahead, with Thiago Alcantara unleashing a brilliant half-volley after the ball fell kindly to him from the clearance of a free-kick by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.
The hosts were now in total control of the game, and it was hardly surprising that they doubled their advantage midway through the second half. After a fine exchange with Jordan Henderson, Salah found the back of the net, having initially been released by a marvellous long pass by Tyler Morton.
After that, Liverpool managed to see the game out without much of a fuss, with a late rally from FC Porto going begging. The result means Liverpool are well clear in Group B of the UEFA Champions League, with Porto, AC Milan, and Atletico Madrid left to fight it out for the second spot in the final matchday. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Jurgen Klopp’s men.
Alisson Becker: 6/10
With none of Jordan Henderson, James Milner and Virgil van Dijk in the starting lineup, Alisson donned the captain’s armband for Liverpool. And it was a largely straightforward outing for the Liverpool no. 1, who did not have to break a sweat, as Porto hardly ever tested him and never made their dominant spells count.
Neco Williams: 7/10
Making only his second start of the season, Neco Williams dealt with the threat of Luis Diaz fairly well, for the most part, showing the improvements he has made in the defensive side of his game. Going forward, the Welshman carried a lot of threat, playing a couple of key passes, although there were a few wasteful touches as well.
Joel Matip: 6/10
With Virgil van Dijk rested, Matip was the senior figure in the Liverpool backline. However, the experienced defender struggled to keep the defensive line organised, especially when Porto were in the ascendancy. He did improve as the game progressed, though, winning 11 duels while completing four clearances and three tackles.
Ibrahima Konate: 6/10
Pairing up alongside Matip at the heart of the Liverpool defence for the first time, Konate struggled to get on the same wavelength as the Cameroonian defender. The youngster was under the cosh initially and gave the ball away cheaply on a couple of occasions. However, once he found his footing, there was no way past the man-mountain, who read the game smartly for the final three-quarters of the game.
Kostas Tsimikas: 6/10
With Andrew Robertson still not fit enough to start, Tsimikas got another chance to impress. However, unlike most of his outings this season, the Greek defender was under the pump here, to begin with, before he eventually found his feet. That is when he started posing a threat down the left flank and even played a couple of fine passes through the half-spaces.
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain: 7/10
Injuries to several midfielders have helped Oxlade-Chamberlain’s cause and he seems to have finally made good use of an opportunity. The Englishman was a bundle of energy in the middle of the park and looked to move Liverpool forward with purpose. And it was his free-kick which was cleared onto Thiago Alcantara, who scored the opener. However, some wasteful touches bring his rating down slightly.
Tyler Morton: 8/10
Thiago on Tyler Morton: “You know that he has this inner talent that makes him different with his age. He has a long path, but the path will be easier for him because of his talent and also his intelligence – not just during the game, but watching it.”
Making his maiden Champions League appearance, Morton would have been forgiven for being overawed by the occasion. However, the 19-year-old played with maturity beyond his years while showing some brilliant reading of the game to help calm things down when Porto were dominant.
The youngster was even involved in the build-up to the goal scored by Mohamed Salah, with his long pass opening up play beautifully. Morton is showing some promising signs in the early days of his Liverpool career, and he could help alleviate the need to sign a midfielder.
Thiago Alcantara: 8/10
“It felt to better to win the game, to see that the team is still hungry even though we already qualified.”
Thiago Alcantara says he is happy to be getting back into the ‘rhythm’ of playing regularly after his stunning strike helped #LFC to a 2-0 win over Porto in the #UCL pic.
To say that Thiago’s Liverpool stint has been frustrating would be an understatement. However, the Spanish international has slowly been ebbing his way to peak form recently, and on Wednesday, he played a key role in helping Liverpool assert their dominance once they finally found their feet. In addition, he scored the wonderful goal that broke the deadlock and eased the pressure off his side. Job well done.
Mohamed Salah: 7/10
Salah played well within himself for much of his stay on the pitch, perhaps knowing that this game was of no consequence for Liverpool. However, with scoring becoming a norm for the Egyptian, he scored a customary goal after some brilliant work by Morton and Jordan Henderson before being taken off for a well-deserved rest.
Takumi Minamino: 6/10
With Roberto Firmino unavailable and Klopp not taking a chance with Diogo Jota, Minamino got a rare start. However, the Japanese international did not quite grab his opportunity with both hands, as he was slow off the blocks and could not wield his influence as much as he would have liked. Nevertheless, he will be better for having been given this chance.
Sadio Mane: 6/10
Mane has been in fine form this season. However, against FC Porto, he could not produce the goods. The Senegalese forward did have the ball in the back of the net in the first half, but VAR ruled the goal out due to offside. He played a couple of key passes and got through the game unscathed.
Jordan Henderson: 7/10
Henderson, along with his introduction, brought about a sense of calmness and composure. He helped Liverpool control the game superbly before being involved in a give-and-go with Salah for the second goal of the game, effectively killing off the tie.
Andrew Robertson: 7/10
On for Tsimikas, this was Robertson’s chance to get some of his lost form back. The Scottish left-back was in fine touch, although he did not create any opening. Solid for the most part defensively, he never let Otavio get the better of him.
On for Salah, Fabinho kept things simple in the middle of the park and completed each of his attempted passes. As a result, Liverpool remained firmly in control late in the game.
Divock Origi: 6/10
It was a bright cameo by Origi, who linked up play smartly while also having a shot blocked late on.
James Milner: N/A
A late introduction, Milner helped see the game out while getting some rhythm in his feet following his return from an injury layoff.